Erling Haaland wasted little time in hitting the goal trail once again as Manchester City knocked holders Liverpool out of the EFL Cup thanks to a 3-2 victory in a lively fourth round clash at Etihad Stadium.
The home side flew out of the traps and deservedly took the lead on 10 minutes when Haaland volleyed in his 24th goal of the season from the excellent Kevin de Bruyne’s cross.
The Norwegian had to watch the World Cup action in Qatar from afar but showed he hadn’t lost any of his goal touch with yet another clinical strike.
Liverpool were forced to weather a heavy, early storm but managed to spring forward 10 minutes later to level against the run of play courtesy of Fabio Carvalho’s smart low finish.
The end-to-end nature of the cup tie continued right from the restart as a wonderful touch and strike from Riyad Mahrez was immediately cancelled out by a flowing counter-attacking goal from Jurgen Klopp’s men that was finished off by Mo Salah.
City continued to look the more likely though and Nathan Ake put them back in front for a third and final time when he arrived late to nod in another de Bruyne cross on 58 minutes.
Darwin Nunez had missed two glorious openings towards the end of the first period and he blew the visitors’ final big chance to thwart City when he dragged another attempt wide of target.
Next up, Liverpool return to Premier League action at Aston Villa on Boxing Day while Man City visit Leeds United on Wednesday December 28.
A post-Qatar taster to more than whet the appetite. Just four days on from what many believe to be the finest World Cup final ever, English football’s top two sides of recent years put on a show that provided a timely reminder of what the rest of this domestic season has to offer.
Both teams sprinkled a smidgen of youth with big name stars, but there was a real quality to the action throughout an absorbing encounter that was an exemplar for attacking football, but perhaps not so much the defending.
Man City will clearly take more positives from the victory as they look for a seventh League Cup success in just 10 years, while Liverpool will hope they can build on an improved second half showing as they bid to kick-start a Premier League campaign that currently sees them sitting sixth and seven points adrift of fourth spot.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City). The Belgian may not have had the World Cup he would have hoped for, but his link-up with Haaland showed no sign of rustiness as he chipped in with another couple of assists and a range of exquisite passes and crosses to create plenty of openings for his teammates.
MAN CITY: Ortega 6, Lewis 7, Akanji 7, Laporte 7, Ake 8, Rodri 7, De Bruyne 9, Gundogan 8, Mahrez 8, Haaland 8, Palmer 8. Subs: Stones 6, Grealish 6, Foden 7, Bernardo Silva n/a.
LIVERPOOL: Kelleher 8; Milner 7, Gomez 6, Matip 7, Robertson 6; Bajcetic 6, Thiago 6, Elliott 6, Carvalho 6, Salah 7, Nunez 6. Subs: Phillips 7, Fabinho 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Henderson 6, Keita 6.
01’ – MAN CITY CHANCE! Less than 20 seconds in and City should be ahead. Gundogan spins his man brilliantly on the left and sends Haaland clear. Kelleher is miles off his line but the big Norwegian blows his lines with a lob that flies way off target.
10’ – GOAL! – Man City 1-0 Liverpool. Haaland is back with a bang. The forward gets in front of Gomez to volley home de Bruyne’s excellent left-wing cross.
20’ – GOAL! – Man City 1-1 Liverpool. Carvalho guides a lovely low shot into the far corner from Milner’s pass after a probing run forward from Matip.
37’ – MAN CITY CHANCES! The home team cut Liverpool open down the right once more. De Bruyne pulls it back for Gundogan who sees a first-time shot well saved by Kelleher. City come again and Ake meets KDB’s sumptuous delivery from the right but Kelleher is there again to push the ball to safety.
42’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCES! Nunez spins free on to Gomez’s ball over the top but he drills just wide of the far post from the right side of the box. The Uruguayan then has another big chance in the last action of the half but volleys wide after arriving on cue to meet a deep left-wing free kick.
47’ – GOAL! – Man City 2-1 Liverpool. Mahrez cuts inside Robertson with a sublime first touch to collect Rodri’s pass and fire a low shot into the far corner.
48’ – GOAL! – Man City 2-2 Liverpool. The Ox does brilliantly down the left to release Nunez. He surges into the box and cuts it across for Salah to guide home the leveller.
58’ – GOAL! – Man City 3-2 Liverpool. Ake arrives unmarked at the far post to head KDB’s wonderful delivery into the back of the net.
72’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Nunez races clear down the right. He charges into the box but drags another low shot wide of the far post.